M Nawaz Khan
Once again, Indian held Kashmir is in the grip of chaos. The dozens of Kashmiri people have died in the violence triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist militant, by the Indian army. More bloodshed can be expected unless the security forces refrain from resorting to brute force that has included the use of live ammunition to disperse angry protesters. The human rights abuses in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir State are an ongoing issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech.
The Indian army, central reserve police force and border security personnel have been accused of committing severe human rights abuses against innocent Kashmiris. The current situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir and the indigenous movement for self-determination, which has been going on for a long time, is a manifestation of what Kashmiris want. It is evident that nothing can deter the Kashmiris’ resolve to continue their struggle. Kashmiris want to exercise their right to self-determination and for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to implement its resolutions on the dispute. The occupation forces in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir are resorting to these brutal acts to suppress the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people, promised to them by several UNSC resolutioms.
Growing Indian atrocities have forced the Kashmiri youth to resort to militancy. The dilemma is that the Indian government has attempted to justify its use of wanton violence by accusing the protesters of being jihadis since they came out in support of a militant commander. What it fears to mention is that they are protesting the brutal occupation of their land by the Indian Army. The Indian government also does not mention that the only reason the 22-year-old Burhan joined the Hizbul Mujahideen at the age of 15 was because he felt that it was his only option in resisting a dehumanising occupation and that last year the Indian Army tortured and killed his elder brother. By now it should be obvious to all that the Indian Army is not reacting to militancy, but is rather the largest contributor to it.
In occupied Kashmir, rape, looting and mass graves are a common occurrence of daily life. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the suppressed rage of those (Kashmiris) who have been subjected to brutal occupation for nearly 70 years will occasionally boil over. Kashmiris have no rights and their right to self-determination has been repeatedly blocked by India. New Dehli used to claim that there was no indigenous movement for freedom in Kashmir and the militants sent from Pakistan were behind the trouble. The latest protests are the umpteenth example of that not being the case. It must not be forgotten that in Kashmir there actually is a great deal of resentment towards their heavy-handed treatment by India.
The system of oppression in Kashmir that masquerades as democracy has radicalised the Kashmiri youth and these protests and spates of violence are testament to their being indigenous. After all, it would be ridiculous to believe that Pakistan can create such a widespread movement in Kashmir. And as India continually masks over the violence in Kashmir, it is the moral responsibility of the international community to pressurise India into mending its ways and bring the issue of Kashmir to the forefront.
Under the Modi government, such protests will only gain greater strength because of his ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric. But the problem lies not with one government or political party. It is the colonisers’ attitude that India has adopted towards Kashmir that ensures both the continuation of the insurgency and the angry frustration of Kashmiris. Undoubtedly, Indian approach has failed to pacify Kashmir. The key issue is that New Delhi has always looked upon the Kashmir unrest as a law and order problem. Besides, Indian efforts to project the Kashmiri movement as terrorism through baseless accusations cannot succeed. In fact, the Kashmir dispute is an unsolved question of the 3rd June Partition Plan, which turned into a freedom movement. Therefore, it demands to hold a plebiscite according to the UNSC resolutions through which the Kashmir dispute could be solved while giving the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris so that they could decide their political fate.
Kashmir for Pakistan has historically been a region whose plight has resonated with millions in the country. The issue of Kashmir for most Pakistanis is a subjugation of innocent Kashmiris by Indian authorities and the region’s rightful place considered to be with Pakistan according to the 3rd June Partition Plan. India is highly mistaken if it thinks that voice of Kashmiris can be suppressed through the brutal use of force. Indeed, the current disaffection with New Delhi’s rule is very much an indigenous Kashmiri phenomenon, while India’s harsh methods are helping create a new generation of militants, such as the late Burhan Wani.
Kashmir is a political issue and not a question of economic interests or package of incentives. India should realise that anger and hatred being displayed by Kashmiris are the outcome of the military approach being adopted by the Indian government to resolve the dispute, whereas Pakistan is always ready to resolve the longstanding dispute with India through dialogue; but India is shying away from the dialogue process. In this regard, Pakistan took several initiatives for dialogue but India responded to by suspending the dialogue process. India is adamant that Pakistan has no locus standi in Kashmir and hence sees its condemnation and call for seeking international community’s help to stop the violence as interference in its internal matters. Pakistan, however, is reminding India that Kashmir remains a universally recognised disputed territory under the UNSC resolutions outstanding for almost seven decades.
There is a need to point out the injustices inflicted on the ordinary public and to highlight the Kashmir dispute as a historical one that needs a political solution. In this context, Pakistan needs to raise this issue in all world forums since a new wave of violence in Kashmir in which around 54 people have been killed so far and more than 3500 innocent Kashmirs have been injured so far, with many people having suffered eye injuries because of pellet guns used by the security forces. The brazen use of force by Indian authorities has even resulted in the deaths of some civilians who were inside their homes, falling victim to stray bullets of the Indian security forces. In light of these excesses of the Indian forces it is pertinent to highlight the issue at international forums. Thus, the miseries of the people of Kashmir demand the attention of the international community to the Kashmir issue that it should play its effective role to ensure that Indian government or forces do not violate human rights while dealing with citizens of the valley.
Moreover, it should also raise its voice against human rights violations and take notice of the worst kind of atrocities being perpetrated by Indian occupation forces on Kashmiri people. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s offer to mediate Pakistan-India peace talks is a welcoming move. In fact, it is the UN’s responsibility to intervene in the matter and get the Kashmir issue resolved and it should also fulfil its pledge of conducting a plebiscite in the valley only then the Kashmir dispute will be resolved.
—The writer works at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.